National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Lynne Lancaster

Affiliation: University of Cincinnati

Lynne Lancaster is Professor with the Department of Classics and World Religions at Ohio University, Athens. She holds her degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (B.A. in architecture), Lincoln College (M.A. in Classical Archaeology), and Wolfson College, Oxford University (Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology). Her interests include Roman architecture, construction and technology and she has worked on many of the standing structures in Rome including Trajan’s Markets and the Colosseum, and as architectural consultant at various locations in Italy.  She has also conducted surveys of provincial vaulting techniques in Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt, Britain and Greece.  Professor Lancaster has published extensively, and her Concrete Vaulted Construction in Imperial Rome: Innovation in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2005) received the AIA’s 2007 James R. Wiseman Book Award.  In 2010/2011 she held the AIA Joukowsky Lecturership.

She is one of the Norton lecturers for the 2023-2024 AIA’s National Lecture Program.

See Lynne Lancaster’s work in the American Journal of Archaeology:


Pliny the Elder, writing in the mid 1st century AD, called Rome an urbs pensilis, a “hanging city”. What does this even mean – a hanging city? It clearly has something to do with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. In this lecture we examine the hold that one city, Babylon, had on the imagination of Greco-Roman culture, and how it affected both the physical and conceptual image of another city, Rome, as it became the center of a new empire during the first century AD. During the course of the talk we also examine the evidence behind the proposal that Babylon was not, in fact, the location of this wonder of ancient world.

In this lecture we examine two unusual terracotta roofing elements, the vaulting tube and the armchair voussoir, as examples of the way architectural innovation intersects with the craft of pottery and how the technology to make them spread. The earliest examples of both occur in bath buildings as a means of creating moisture proof ceilings, but their later development take different trajectories that provide insight into the agents of technology transfer in the Roman empire and even into modern times. Some vestiges of Roman terracotta vaulting tubes were eventually rediscovered by French archaeologists in North Africa, and modern versions were patented in the 1940s Marseille, France before being confiscated by the Nazis and transported to Germany for use in building barracks at one of the concentration camps

In this lecture we will look at how ancient Roman concrete differs from modern concrete and explore the reasons that the concrete structures of antiquity seem to have greater durability than our modern ones. Then we will examine the ways in which this new material was exploited by Roman architects and builders to create never-before-possible structures like the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the imperial bath buildings. We will also look at the consequences that concrete construction had on an empire wide-scale. Not only did concrete allow the Roman to build bigger, it also changed aesthetic expectations and affected the trade routes throughout the Mediterranean.


See Lynne Lancaster's work in the American Journal of Archaeology.

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